FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:40:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mailbag: Manufacturing Jobs and Fidel Castro http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/mailbag-manufacturing-jobs-and-fidel-castro/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/mailbag-manufacturing-jobs-and-fidel-castro/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:56:06 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117601 This week, readers sent us letters about President Barack Obama's record on manufacturing jobs, and Sen. Ted Cruz's claim that Obama praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

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This week, readers sent us letters about President Barack Obama’s record on manufacturing jobs, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s claim that Obama praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

 

Manufacturing Jobs Numbers

In “The Wire” from D’Angelo Gore [“Obama’s Record on Manufacturing Jobs,” Dec. 1], he concludes that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest “cherry picked” data when talking about the creation of manufacturing jobs during President Obama’s tenure. While Earnest certainly uses the most favorable data possible, I would suggest by not placing those numbers in a larger context, Gore has done the exact same thing.

There is no really good way to date when a president’s policies begin to have an effect upon the economy. Did it take 13 months for the president’s policies to help manufacturing jobs? Possibly. Did his policies have an effect on manufacturing jobs in his very first month in office? Probably not.

It would be helpful to show the trend line for manufacturing jobs over a longer period of time so as to allow the reader to determine for themselves if those 13 disputed months should be attributed to President Obama or to former President Bush.

Jeff Moulton
Springfield, Illinois

 

I’ve seen your “fact-checking” on this issue many times and believe you are falsely describing the facts by purposely being obtuse.

See the latest: “Obama’s Record on Manufacturing Jobs.”

You continually start the clock of Obama’s job creation at the second he swore into office. So his swearing in as president was suppose to automatically reverse the Great Recession of 2008? That seems illogical and ridiculous from an objective viewpoint.

Starting at the end of the jobs losing curve makes sense. That indicates jobs created since that recession bottomed out, so those are jobs created! Just because there were many lost before that, does not mean they weren’t created. Right? Your reporting here makes is seem that a job cannot be counted as created until there are more jobs than prior to Obama’s inauguration.

If I dig a 10-foot hole and build a 100-foot building, is the building only 90 feet tall? No! It is 100 feet of building that I built. It would be 90 feet from the original level of ground, but I still built 100 feet of it.

Your reporting of it makes it look accurate that Obama lost 308,000 jobs, which is also misleading given the context of the historical point that he took over as president.

If you are attempting to express facts and honesty, I feel like you are failing continuously on this point.

Maybe you are just trying to show that you aren’t partisan, but your logic falls short. You should at least make a comment explaining the context of the situation. You can’t ignore the severe economic crisis that began the year prior to Obama’s inauguration.

Jesse Barondeau
Mitchell, South Dakota

 

‘Praise’ for Fidel Castro?

A neutral party would say “Obama didn’t praise Castro directly but offers condolences to Fidel’s family.”[“Obama Didn’t ‘Praise’ Castro,” Nov. 28] You chose to attack [Sen. Ted] Cruz’s statement only relaying the message you wanted to get across, that Cruz was wrong.

I am not a Cruz fan, but if we’re ever going to get back to real journalism, both sides should be presented in a headline. Too often sites like yours present half-truths. The word condolence in itself states that he agrees with Fidel and is praising his family.

Condolence: an expression of sympathy.
Sympathy: harmony of agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.

Brant Engen
Minneapolis, Minnesota

FactCheck.org responds: The reader says our article presented “half-truths.” In fact, we ran the president’s statement in full. 

 

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Trump’s Campaign-Style Exaggerations http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/trumps-campaign-style-exaggerations/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/trumps-campaign-style-exaggerations/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:17:16 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117542 President-elect Donald Trump kicked off his "victory tour" in Cincinnati, delivering a campaign-style speech that contained campaign-style exaggerations.

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President-elect Donald Trump kicked off his “victory tour” in Cincinnati, delivering a campaign-style speech that contained campaign-style exaggerations:

  • Trump took credit for saving “1,100 jobs” at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis “from going to Mexico.” But the company told us that the agreement prevents 800 factory jobs from going to Mexico. Another 300 jobs in “headquarters and engineering” at the plant were never going to be shifted to Mexico.
  • Trump said in “many cases” people have two jobs and “some of that is because of Obamacare.” In fact, the percentage of all U.S. workers holding multiple jobs has declined on an annual average basis under President Obama.
  • Trump claimed his percentage of the black vote was “higher than all of the Republican candidates for years.” That’s true when compared with Republicans who ran against Barack Obama, the first black president. But Trump did about the same or worse, as a percentage, than every other previous Republican since 1968.

The president-elect also repeated some claims we have already debunked on the size of this election victory and the impact of his tax cut on middle-income wage earners.

Carrier Deal

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had a busy day on Dec. 1. First they stopped at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis to announce a deal with the company to save jobs that were scheduled to move to Mexico, and then they traveled to Cincinnati for the first of what will be several stops on their “victory tour.”

In Cincinnati, Trump and Pence both said that the president-elect negotiated a deal that would allow Carrier, a heating and air condition company, to keep 1,100 jobs at its plant in Indianapolis from being shipped to Mexico. But 300 of those jobs were never scheduled to leave the U.S.

Pence, Dec. 1: … because of the bold leadership and vision of President-elect Donald Trump, a company that announced back in February that they were closing their doors and moving to Mexico, announced that now that more than 1,100 good-paying jobs will stay right here in America and the president-elect made it happen.

Trump: But as I said, just today, I was in Indianapolis to announce that we’re saving the jobs at the Carrier plant from going to Mexico — 1,100 jobs.

Carrier had announced in February that it would close its manufacturing plant in Indianapolis and move operations near one of the company’s existing plants in Mexico. The move, scheduled to take place over three years, would have affected 1,400 factory workers.

But on Nov. 30, Carrier announced that the company “will continue to manufacture gas furnaces in Indianapolis, in addition to retaining engineering and headquarters staff, preserving more than 1,000 jobs.”

“Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive U.S. business climate,” Carrier said in a prepared statement. “The incentives offered by the state” of Indiana, which reportedly include $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years, “were an important consideration.”

But according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and ABC News, 300 of those 1,100 jobs were never intended to move to Mexico.

A representative for Carrier confirmed to FactCheck.org that 300 jobs in “headquarters and engineering” were never going to be shifted from Indiana to Mexico. The other 800 jobs that will remain at the Indianapolis plant belong to factory workers, the official told us. Had the Indianapolis plant closed, those 300 positions in “headquarters and engineering” would have been moved to another facility in Indiana, the company representative said.

While the deal negotiated by Trump keeps 800 of the factory jobs in Indianapolis, another 600 factory jobs will still move to Mexico. And Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Electronic Controls, will still close its manufacturing plant in Huntington, Indiana, shifting another 700 factory jobs to Mexico.

Multiple Jobs

Trump mentioned twice that he will repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he referred to as “Obamacare.” In one instance, Trump blamed the health care law for forcing people to hold two jobs.

Trump, Dec. 1: And today, you’re older and you’re working harder. And in many cases, you have two jobs. Some of that is because of Obamacare. And, by the way, we are repealing and replacing Obamacare.

It is no doubt true that some people are working harder and holding down two jobs. But anecdotes are not evidence. In fact, the percentage of all U.S. workers holding multiple jobs has declined on an annual basis under President Obama, irrespective of the health care law, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BLS tracks multiple jobholders as a percentage of all U.S. workers, using data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The annual average was 5.2 percent in 2008, the year before Obama took office, and it remained at 5.2 percent in Obama’s first year in 2009.

Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010 and under the law individuals were required to obtain coverage or pay a tax penalty, beginning in January 2014. Yet, there has been little or no change in the annual average since 2010.

The average percentage of  U.S. workers holding multiple jobs fell to 4.9 percent in 2010 and has remained at that level every year since then. The average over the first 11 months of this year is 5 percent, which is a slight increase from last year but still below the annual average for all the years before Obama took office.

In April 2015, the BLS published an analysis of the trend in multiple jobholding from 1994 to 2013, concluding that “[m]ultiple jobholding has become less common in the United States over the past two decades.”

The BLS chart below shows the downward trend from January 1994, when BLS began to collect the data, to October 2016.

Multiple job holders

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

African American Vote

Explaining his victory, Trump claimed that his support among black voters steadily rose “up to a number that’s higher than all of the Republican candidates for years.” Trump got a higher percentage of support among black voters than the Republican presidential candidates who faced Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. But he did about the same or worse, as a percentage, than every other previous Republican going back to 1968.

Trump, Dec. 1: The African-American community was so great to me in this election. They were so great to me. Amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I started off at a low number and every week boom, boom, boom. And I got it up to a number that’s higher than all of the Republican candidates for years, and it was great.”

Trump is correct that he started with abysmally low support among black voters, according to many early polls. For example, polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and McClatchy-Marist in August showed Trump getting just 2 percent support among registered black voters.

On the day of the election, however, exit polls from CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post all showed Trump garnering 8 percent of the black vote, while Clinton got 88 or 89 percent.

That 8 percent for Trump is considerably lower than the “almost 15″ percent support among African American voters that he wrongly boasted about during an interview with the New York Times interview on Nov. 22.

It is better than what Republican nominees Mitt Romney (6 percent in 2012) and John McCain (4 percent in 2008) got when those they squared off against Obama. But it’s a little less than George W. Bush got in 2004 (11 percent), and about the same as Bush got in 2000 (8 percent). But prior to that, you’d have to go back nine presidential elections, to Barry Goldwater (6 percent) in 1964, to find a Republican presidential candidate who garnered a lower percentage of support from black voters than Trump.

Repeats

‘Landslide’ Election: Trump continued to insist that he won the presidential election “in a landslide,” even though his margin of victory actually ranks among the closest in the Electoral College history (46th in 58 elections). And  the latest vote tally from David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shows Clinton leading the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted, the electoral vote was swung by a mere 80,000 voters in three states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. You can read more on the topic in our story, “Trump Landslide? Nope.”

Taxes: Trump said he was going to “reduce taxes … for the middle class, in particular.” We don’t know what tax plan Trump may propose as president. Indeed, Steven Mnuchin , Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, told CNBC on Nov. 30, “Any reductions we have in upper-income taxes will be offset by less deductions, so there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class. There will be a big tax cut for the middle class, but any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions that pay for it.” That may be so, but we haven’t seen such a plan. Under the plan that Trump proposed as a candidate, the biggest tax cuts would go to the very wealthy “in particular” (as Trump put it), according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation. The Tax Foundation found that, on average, Americans at every income level would get a tax cut under Trump’s plan, but the largest cuts, both in dollar amounts and as a percentage of after-tax income, would go to the wealthiest Americans, particularly those in the top 1 percent.

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More False Claims About Fracking http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/more-false-claims-about-fracking/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/more-false-claims-about-fracking/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:56:41 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117312 The head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee falsely claimed that a new report "confirms" that "hydraulic fracturing has not impacted drinking water" in Wyoming. The report said it could not reach “firm conclusions.”

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The chairman of the Senate environment committee falsely claimed that a new report “confirms” that “hydraulic fracturing has not impacted drinking water” in Wyoming. The report said a lack of water quality data predating oil and gas exploration prevented it from reaching “firm conclusions.”

Sen. James Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, made his remarks in a statement issued Nov. 10 — the day that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a report on water-supply wells in Pavillion, a small town southeast of Yellowstone National Park.

The industry-funded state report specifically looked at the “likelihood of impacts from oil and gas operations” on 14 water-supply wells used by residents living near Pavillion. Since the 1990s, residents in the area have “complained of physical ailments and said their drinking water was black and tasted of chemicals,” ProPublica reported.

Inhofe, Nov. 10: The Wyoming DEQ’s thorough investigation over the past several years has come to a close and confirms what we’ve known all along: hydraulic fracturing has not impacted drinking water resources.

But that’s not what the report said.

The “fact sheet” for the Wyoming report said it’s “unlikely” that hydraulic fracturing had “any impacts” on these water-supply wells, but “[l]imited baseline water quality data, predating development of the Pavillion Gas Field hinders reaching firm conclusions on causes and effects of reported water quality changes.”

In the next sections, we’ll examine why it’s difficult to isolate fracking from other potential causes of water contamination, and why the Wyoming report didn’t reach “firm conclusions.” We’ll also review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s research to date on fracking practices that take place across the country, and Inhofe’s unsupported claim that it is “abundantly clear” that fracking does not impact drinking water.

Muddied Causes

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique often used to retrieve natural gas and oil often from shale, a rock layer deep below the earth’s surface. The process entails injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure, releasing oil and gas that would otherwise be difficult to recover.

About half of U.S. crude oil production and two-thirds of natural gas production now involve fracking — a significant share of production that has steadily increased over the last 15 years, according to the Energy Information Administration.

SciCHECKsquare_4-e1430162915812With this boom have come concerns about the impact of oil and gas drilling on water quality, as we wrote in March 2015 when we checked another false fracking claim made by Inhofe.

Much of the debate surrounding whether fracking has led to groundwater contamination in Wyoming and elsewhere stems from a lack of water quality data predating fracking and oil and gas production in general.

Without this information, researchers are less equipped to assess the relative impact of three possible sources on water quality: naturally occurring phenomena, conventional oil and gas recovery methods, and unconventional methods, including fracking.

Since 1960, for example, both conventional and unconventional methods have been used to extract fuel from the Pavillion gas field. If water quality data had been collected before the drilling started, and since then, scientists could have compared that data with trends in the use of specific practices over the years.

Conventional methods typically include drilling vertically to recover more easily accessible fuel from relatively shallow, permeable rock. Fracking and horizontal drilling, often used in unison, fall under unconventional methods.

Hydraulic_Fracturing-Related_ActivitiesAs its name suggests, horizontal drilling often involves drilling deeper to less porous shale rock and then drilling horizontally. (See the adjacent image.) This enables a single well to cross through a greater portion of a fuel reservoir and, as a result, recover more fuel.

But fracking doesn’t necessarily have to occur deep below the earth’s surface or in horizontal wells. In fact, fracking was used in some relatively shallow Pavillion field wells, which means the activities took place closer to the aquifer tapped by residents’ water-supply wells. All of the 169 wells in the field are also vertically-drilled wells, according to the EPA.

Both conventional and unconventional fuel recovery methods have the potential to negatively impact groundwater resources, as do naturally occurring processes, such as bacteria proliferation or the natural movement of methane underground.

So how could the boom in oil and gas production from fracking lead to water contamination?

Among other mechanisms, methane, the main component of natural gas, could leach into aquifers through improperly constructed drilling wells or through cracks underground produced during the fracturing process. However, methane can naturally migrate into aquifers without the help of fracking, blurring the line between natural and anthropogenic, or human-caused, sources.

Salty fracking fluids, which can contain toxic chemicals, also could leach into the aquifer after they’re disposed of improperly or spilled. Lastly, fracking can influence the underground ecosystem’s biology, further blurring the line between natural and anthropogenic causes.

For example, bacteria are known to interact with the fracking process. In fact, a species of bacteria — the so-called “Frackibacter” — has specifically evolved to live in the subterranean environment shaped by fracking.

Generally, bacteria have “both positive and negative impacts on energy recovery,” the Ohio State University researchers who discovered the new bacteria wrote in their paper published in Nature Microbiology in September.

For one, some bacteria play an important part in producing natural gas in the first place. But during the recovery of the fuel, bacteria can “sour” the fuel by producing sulfide, a toxic chemical that smells like rotten eggs. Bacteria can also contribute “to corrosion [of the drilling well] and the risk of environmental contamination,” the researchers wrote.

To kill these bacteria, “biocides like formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde are thrown down the [wells] in an attempt to preserve a usable [fuel] product,” reported Wired. These chemicals could then leach into aquifers in the routes described above. After wells are abandoned, these bacteria can also “come back with a vengeance, generating acidic byproducts that can corrode pipes and release heavy metals,” Wired wrote.

There are ways to distinguish natural from anthropogenic causes, such as using isotopic analysis, which aims to distinguish the signatures of different sources of compounds, but the technique isn’t always sensitive enough to detect the difference. Overall, given the lack of baseline data, it’s often difficult to “confirm” that fracking in particular has played a role in water contamination.

State and Federal Fracking Fray

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality announced that it would undertake the water-quality study in June 2013 — about 18 months after the EPA released a draft report that found chemicals associated with fracking in the groundwater near Pavillion.

The EPA decided to turn the investigation over to the state after its report was criticized by state officials, Congress and industry representatives, according to a Dec. 6, 2015, report by the Casper Star-Tribune. The Wyoming newspaper obtained about 56,000 EPA documents in a Freedom of Information Act request that the paper said revealed “an EPA worried it could not defend its Pavillion study against an onslaught of criticism.”

In announcing the state would “further investigate” the water quality in Pavillion, the EPA said it “stands behind its work and data,” but “does not plan to finalize or seek peer review of its draft Pavillion groundwater report released in December, 2011.”

The Wyoming state study was headed by a private company, Acton Mickelson Environmental Inc., and was funded by Encana, the company that owns Encana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc., which operates the Pavillion gas field.

We emailed Kevin Frederick, water quality administrator at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, to ask what role state scientists played in the report. He told us they “observed sample collection, evaluated sample results, and participated in development of the draft and final reports” while working with Acton Mickelson Environmental Inc.

As we previously noted, the fact sheet for the Wyoming report concluded it’s “unlikely” that fracking had “any impacts” on these water-supply wells. However, it added, “Limited baseline water quality data, predating development of the Pavillion Gas Field hinders reaching firm conclusions on causes and effects of reported water quality changes.”

Instead, the state report said bacteria “may be a cause of taste and odor issues” with the well water. 

But in its comments on a draft of the report, the EPA argued that the state didn’t support many of its conclusions with enough data. The EPA said “data limitations and uncertainties … suggest a need for additional investigation to provide support for many of the Report’s conclusions.”

For example, the Wyoming state report found, “Exceedances of drinking water standards or comparison values” found in the water-supply wells are “generally limited to naturally occurring dissolved salts, metals, and radionuclides.”

In its comments on the draft report, the EPA wrote that “there is limited supporting evidence demonstrating that all of these constituents were present historically in the area, and that they were present at similar concentrations to those detected,” i.e., that they were naturally occurring.

High levels of sodium and sulfate are “characteristic” for the region, the EPA added. But “there is limited or no historic data in the references cited in the Report to document naturally occurring levels of many other inorganic constituents such as arsenic, thallium, lithium and uranium, and the limited data suggest that the values seen in water wells are not consistent with background concentrations,” the EPA said.

In its response to the EPA’s comments, Wyoming officials said that their report “states that those constituents that exceed drinking water standards … are naturally occurring dissolved salts, metals and radionuclides, not that the exceedances are naturally occurring,” a point that was not clarified in the state’s final report.

“Due to the absence of baseline water quality data from the study wells, there is insufficient evidence to determine if the reported exceedances do, or do not represent natural aquifer concentrations,” the state added in its response to the EPA.

The EPA also commented on the state’s conclusion that bacteria may be to blame for residents’ complaints about the poor taste and odor of the drinking water. The EPA agreed that the report showed a “correlation” between “dissolved organic compounds,” such as methane, in the water and the “proliferation of bacteria.” But it argued that this correlation doesn’t “establish … the source.”

In other words, fracking and related practices could be indirectly to blame for water quality issues.

In its final version, the Wyoming report did state that gas in the water could be from anthropogenic and/or natural sources.

The state report also concluded that it’s unlikely that fracking fluids have interacted with “shallow groundwater supplying the study wells,” in part, because of the depth at which the fracking occurs underground. The water-supply wells reach 30 feet to 675 feet below the surface, while the “shallowest” fracking occurs “generally deeper than 1,500 ft,” the state said.

But the EPA in its comments on the draft report countered that the fracking of some of the drilling wells “occurred at a substantially shallower depth.”

Also, Dominic DiGiulio and Robert Jackson, earth and environmental scientists at Stanford University, published a paper in March in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that linked shallow fracking to toxic chemicals in aquifers in Pavillion.

For example, “Acid stimulation and hydraulic fracturing occurred as shallowly as” 699 feet and 1,056 feet below the surface, respectively, “at depths comparable to deepest domestic groundwater use in the area,” the authors wrote. Like hydraulic fracturing, acid stimulation (e.g. hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid) is used to improve oil and gas recovery.

In an interview with WyoFile, a local Wyoming news outlet, DiGiulio, who was an EPA scientist for over 25 years and co-authored the agency’s 2011 draft report on Pavillion, said his 2016 study with Jackson stops “short of saying that there’s strong evidence tying” fracking to impacts on the water wells. But their paper had found that fracking has impacted the groundwater, which is water that may be used in the future.

In other words, DiGiulio and Jackson looked at groundwater generally, while the state looked at specific wells — an important distinction.

In an email DiGiulio and Jackson told us the state needs to install monitoring wells, solely used for research purposes, in the area to delineate the extent of groundwater contamination and to “better address risk posed to domestic water wells.”

The EPA did install two monitoring wells in the Pavillion field and used data collected from them in its 2011 report. However, the state didn’t use this data for its report because some expressed “concerns” about the construction and sampling of the two wells during the public comment period for the EPA report.

DiGiulio and Jackson also told us that about 20 additional water wells, out of 121 wells total, should be tested due to their proximity to unlined pits, where fracking fluids and other toxic byproducts of oil and gas exploration were disposed.

DiGiulio and Jackson told us that “there can be a lag period of decades before contaminants” in groundwater reach a water well. “These contaminants present a long-term unaddressed risk to domestic water wells” if the contaminants continue to move upwards toward water wells, they added.

Regardless of the criticisms of both state and federal investigations, even if the conclusions made in the Wyoming report are taken at face value, they still don’t “confirm” that “hydraulic fracturing has not impacted drinking water resources” near Pavillion, as Inhofe claimed.

Pavillion: National Implications

Inhofe draws national implications from the Pavillion study, claiming it adds to growing body of scientific research that proves fracking does not contaminate groundwater.

“Ultimately, the facts have prevailed and the record is abundantly clear, with even the EPA affirming that ‘hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources’ in its landmark water study,” Inhofe said in his Nov. 10 statement.

It is not, however, “abundantly clear” that fracking does not impact drinking water and there is evidence to suggest otherwise.

Inhofe is referring to a June 2015 draft report in which the EPA said it “did not find evidence” that hydraulic fracturing has “led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources in the United States.” But the EPA’s draft report has been challenged by its own advisory board and a final report has yet to be issued.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board wrote a letter dated Aug. 11 to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, stating that the EPA failed to “quantitatively” support its conclusion that fracking has “not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.” The board also said the EPA didn’t “clearly describe” whether the conclusion pertained to groundwater and/or surface water nor what exactly it meant by the terms “systemic” and “widespread.”

If the EPA wanted to retain its conclusion in its final report, the agency should address these issues, the advisory board said.

On Nov. 21, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency is “trying to wrap [the final report] up soon,” but she didn’t specify a date. “We’re certainly going to listen to the direction of the science advisory board,” but the “challenge for us is to characterize what we know” without over-generalizing limited data, she added.

Inhofe has cited the draft EPA report in the past to support his position that fracking has no impact on drinking water. He claimed last year that the EPA draft report “confirms” that fracking is “safe.”  As we said at the time, the EPA reported specific cases of water contamination related to fracking and made no determination of safety.

Similarly, Inhofe draws sweeping conclusions from the Wyoming state study that are not supported by the research.

As we already explained, the state report did not reach “firm conclusions on causes and effects of reported water quality changes” in specific wells, while the DiGiulio and Jackson study of Pavillion did find evidence that linked shallow fracking to toxic chemicals in the area’s groundwater.

Researchers know that shallow fracking and poor well integrity, which occurred in Pavillion, can raise the likelihood of water contamination. So how common are these practices?

An estimated 16 percent of fracked wells in the country are less than a mile deep (i.e. shallow), according to a separate survey published by Jackson, DiGiulio and others in Environmental Science and Technology in July 2015. Most of those shallow wells are located in Texas and California.

But the researchers believe that their estimate is low. They predominately looked at wells drilled in the U.S. between 2010 and 2013. At the beginning of 2012, only a few states — Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas — mandated companies to report well data to FracFocus, the database the researchers used to conduct their analysis. For other states, reporting is voluntary.

The researchers also looked at state regulations governing fracking well construction and groundwater protection and found that they varied widely.

For example, some states, such as New Mexico and Utah, do not have to have minimum surface casing depths. Surface casings are pipes within the wells that aim to prevent water contamination. If they don’t extend beyond the groundwater level, there’s a higher chance of contamination.

In Wyoming, however, surface casings must reach deeper than “all known usable groundwater,” the researchers explained. And in Texas, drilling wells that have “less than 1,000 feet of vertical separation” from groundwater require additional testing for integrity.

DiGiulio and Jackson conclude their paper by suggesting that operators should provide more information about their wells in the form of a “mandatory state or federal registry,” which “would allow people to track the locations, depths, and volumes of chemicals used around them.”

In addition, the researchers argue that state or federal governments should require “full chemical disclosure — without trade secret exemptions — for all chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing above 3000 ft.” While most states do require disclosure of some chemicals, oil and gas operators don’t have to report them all because of trade secrets laws, which also protect Coca-Cola’s recipe, for example.

While Inhofe says it is “abundantly clear” that fracking has no impact on drinking water resources, the fact is that researchers do not have the data to make such a sweeping and firm conclusion – specifically in Pavillion and more generally in the U.S. at large.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

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Warren’s Hollow Senate Election Claim http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/warrens-hollow-senate-election-claim/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/warrens-hollow-senate-election-claim/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:26:00 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117451 Sen. Elizabeth Warren cited the hollow and misleading statistic that in the recent election the "majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republican ones."

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren cited the hollow and misleading statistic that in the recent election the “majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republican ones.”

That advantage is mostly due to the fact that California had two Democrats squaring off for a Senate seat for the first time in the state’s history.

It also ignores the fact that only two-thirds of states in any given election hold Senate elections. And this year, heavily Democratic states such as California and New York had Senate elections, for example, while heavily Republican Texas did not.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, made the misleading observation about a popular vote victory for Senate Democrats in a floor speech on Nov. 28 opposing the 21st Century Cures Act — a bill that she warned would provide “a bunch of special giveaways and favors” to “Big Pharma.”

Warren argues that Americans in the last election gave Democrats “majority support” to combat undue corporate influence over government policy. Although Donald Trump won the presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and “[t]he majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republican ones,” Warren said.

Warren, Nov. 28: Republicans are taking over Congress. They are taking over the White House. But Republicans don’t have majority support in this country. The majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republican ones, and the majority supported a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican one.

The American people didn’t give Democrats majority support so we could come back to Washington and play dead. They didn’t send us here to whimper, whine, or grovel. They sent us here to say NO to efforts to sell Congress to the highest bidder. They sent us here to stand up for what’s right.

Now, they are watching, waiting, and hoping — hoping we show some spine and start fighting back when Congress completely ignores the message of the American people and returns to all its same old ways.

Warren is correct about Clinton winning the popular vote. The latest vote tally from David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report showed Clinton leading by nearly 2.4 million votes, as of Nov. 30. In all, Clinton has garnered 48.2 percent of the popular vote and Trump earned 46.4 percent.

Of course, the U.S. does not decide elections by popular vote, but rather by Electoral College votes, which Trump won 306 to 232. (Trump claims he also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” but we found that claim was baseless.)

But what about Warren’s claim that the “majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republicans ones”?

According to the latest vote tallies compiled by Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, Democrats won about 10.6 million more votes than Republicans in Senate races.

But that’s a misleading statistic, as the Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake pointed out, because most of the Democratic advantage in popular vote in Senate races is due to California, the most populated state in the country.

In 2011, California enacted a so-called “jungle primary” system, under which all candidates, regardless of party, compete in a primary election. The top two vote-getters then square off in the general election. For the first time ever, that resulted in two Democrats — Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez — vying for the Senate seat on Nov. 8.

As of Dec. 1, the California Secretary of State website showed the two Democrats combined had won 11.9 million votes in California, while Republicans, of course, received zero votes.

So, we wondered, how would California look if there had been a Republican on the ballot? Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report noted that incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein vastly outspent and handily beat Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken in 2012. Feinstein spent about $12 million and won 62.5 percent of the vote, while Emken spent less than $1 million and won about 37.5 percent of the vote.

“So a no-name candidate who spent no money got 37 percent,” Duffy said. “I think that’s the bottom.”

So, let’s assume a hypothetical Republican was on the ballot in November and received 37.5 percent of the vote. That would mean that the Democrat would have won the election by about 3 million votes. In other words, the California tally was roughly 9 million votes higher this year with only two Democrats than it would have been had the two parties gone head-to-head.

That alone accounts for nearly three-quarters of the popular vote margin of victory for Democratic Senate candidates nationwide.

And that’s not the only reason the popular vote count in Senate races is skewed. Only two-thirds of states had Senate elections this year.

“There is a portion of this that is due to which seats were up in which states,” explained Michele Swers, a professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

In addition to having two Democrats and no Republicans running in California’s Senate race, New York — another large, Democratic-leaning state — also had a Senate election. New York is the third most populated state. In fact, 20 percent of the votes in Senate races nationwide were cast in those two states alone.

Meanwhile, Texas — a solidly Republican-leaning state and the second most populated state in the country — did not have a Senate election this year. In 2014, when Texas had a Senate race, but New York and California did not, Republican Senate candidates nationwide received nearly 4 million more votes than the Democratic candidates.

Duffy, of the Cook Political Report, finds Warren’s claim about a majority of votes for Democratic senators fairly meaningless. The Senate was specifically designed not to reflect the national popular vote, but rather to give all states equal representation, regardless of their population. Heavily populated states like California, Texas and New York have the same number of senators as sparsely populated states like North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.

That’s why the Cook Political Report keeps tabs on the national popular vote for the presidency and the House, but not for the Senate.

“I think her argument is so terribly flawed, there’s no reason to debate it,” Duffy said of Warren.

Matt Dallek, a political historian and associate professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, agrees that it is a “silly debate because our political system — especially the vote for the Senate — isn’t dependent on the popular vote.”

“The reality is that Republicans held the Senate and won the White House, and whether Democrats won more total votes for Senate isn’t all that germane to who holds power in the Senate,” Dallek told us.

Democrats picked up just two seats in the Senate this election, and if a Republican wins the Louisiana Senate run-off election on Dec. 10 as expected, Republicans will have a 52-48 majority.

“Having said this, Warren does have a point as a leader of the opposition party,” Dallek said. “More Americans — millions more — voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, the Senate is almost 50-50, and the people who voted for Democrats expect that Democrats such as Sen. Warren will stand up and fight against much of Trump’s retrograde agenda. It is called the opposition party for a reason.”

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Obama’s Record on Manufacturing Jobs http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/obamas-record-on-manufacturing-jobs/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/obamas-record-on-manufacturing-jobs/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:15:57 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117469 White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that 805,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since President Barack Obama has been in office. In fact, there has been a net loss of 303,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2009.

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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that 805,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since President Barack Obama has been in office. In fact, there has been a net loss of 303,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2009.

Earnest made the statement during a press briefing on Nov. 30. Carrier, a heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration company, earlier that day had announced a deal with President-elect Donald Trump so that the company would “continue to manufacture gas furnaces in Indianapolis, in addition to retaining engineering and headquarters staff, preserving more than 1,000 jobs.”

Earnest called the announcement “good news,” but claimed that Trump would have to make another 804 deals like that to equal the number of manufacturing jobs created while Obama has been president.

Earnest, Nov. 30: Well, you know, obviously we haven’t seen the details of the announcement from the company, but you know we’ll obviously – the early indications are that this is good news.

I know that the President-elect has indicated that he deserves credit for that announcement. And I guess what I would observe is that if he is successful in doing that 804 more times, then he will meet the record of manufacturing jobs that were created in the United States while President Obama was in office. There were 805,000 manufacturing jobs that weren’t just protected or saved, but actually created while President Obama was in office.

So President Obama has set a high standard, and President-elect Trump can meet that standard if this Carrier deal is completed in the way that he expects that it will be. If he does that 804 more times, then he will have matched the standard established by President Obama — at least when it comes to manufacturing jobs.

As Earnest noted, there is a difference between a job that is created and a job that is saved. But there are also jobs that are lost — which Earnest ignores.

The president’s press secretary comes up with 805,000 by counting job growth since February 2010, which was the low point for manufacturing jobs in the U.S. following the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009. The administration frequently uses February 2010 as a start date when calculating manufacturing jobs, as it did on Aug. 8 to announce Manufacturing Day.

But Obama was president long before February 2010.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Manufacturing employment was 12,258,000 in October 2016, according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down 303,000 from the number employed in January 2009, the same month that Obama was sworn in as president.

To make his point, Earnest just ignored all of the job losses that occurred during the first 13 months of Obama’s presidency.

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Trump Landslide? Nope http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/trump-landslide-nope/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/trump-landslide-nope/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 22:50:07 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117402 Despite Donald Trump and his campaign manager describing his election victory as a "landslide," Trump's margin of victory actually ranks among the closest in the Electoral College.

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Despite Donald Trump and his campaign manager describing his election victory as a “landslide,” Trump’s margin of victory actually ranks among the closest in the Electoral College.

With the Michigan election results now certified, Trump expanded his Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton to 306 to 232. That’s a convincing victory, for sure, but it hasn’t stopped Trump from embellishing his victory.

On Nov. 27, Trump tweeted that in addition to winning the Electoral College “in a landslide” he also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” We found no basis for Trump’s claim about “millions of people who voted illegally” and whether that swung the popular vote in favor of Clinton (who currently leads the popular vote tally by more than 2 million votes). But what about the claim of a landslide victory?

The following day, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and now a senior adviser to the president-elect,  used similar language — “landslide” — to characterize the 306 electoral votes won by Trump.

And Trump again used the term later the same say in a tweet criticizing CNN for reporting — correctly — that Trump’s claims about illegal voters swaying the popular vote to Clinton were baseless.

But it turns out that the percentage of electoral votes won by Trump, 56.9 percent, is hardly a landslide by historic comparison.

John Pitney, a professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College, put together a chart showing the Electoral College share won by every president since George Washington and found that Trump’s margin of victory ranked 46th out of 58 U.S. presidential elections. (You can view the whole list below.)

“It’s just not true,” Pitney said of Trump’s “landslide” boast.

Pitney told us in a phone interview that while there’s no legal definition of landslide, such a victory should have to at least be in the top half of electoral wins. “And this doesn’t come close to that,” Pitney said.

George Washington tops the list, having carried 100 percent of the electoral vote. But one need not go so far back in history to see true landslides. Ronald Reagan carried 49 states in 1984, garnering him nearly 97.6 of the electoral vote. Richard Nixon also carried 49 states in 1972, winning 96.65 percent of the electoral vote.

“Those were landslides,” Pitney said.

Even George H. W. Bush in 1988 got 426 electoral votes, which translated to over 79 percent of the electoral vote. It only seemed smaller compared to Reagan’s victories, Pitney said. But Bush got a higher percentage of electoral votes than Obama did in 2008 (365 votes, or 67.84 percent), Pitney said, and “everybody was saying what a big margin Obama won by.”

Trump’s margin of victory in the Electoral College is greater than George W. Bush’s in 2000 or 2004, but both of those were among the tightest electoral victories in American history.

“Trump won. He won by a clear margin,” Pitney said. “But it was no landslide by any accepted definition of that term.”

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight also looked at Trump’s victory in historical context and concluded it was “a bit Orwellian to call it a ‘landslide’ or a ‘blowout.'”

Silver found that the percentage of electoral vote won by Trump — 56.9 percent — was well below the historical average, 70.9 percent. Silver found that Trump’s share of electoral votes ranked 44th out of 54 elections going back to 1804. Before that, he noted, “presidential electors cast two votes each, making it hard to compare them to present-day elections.”

To this, we will add the disclaimer that these calculations assume Electoral College electors on Dec. 19 will vote according to who won a plurality of votes in their state, and that recounts will not overturn any of the state results.

Here’s Pitney’s list:

electoral_college_winners

 

 

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Trump Sticks With Bogus Voter Fraud Claims http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/trump-sticks-with-bogus-voter-fraud-claims/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/trump-sticks-with-bogus-voter-fraud-claims/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 22:56:05 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117371 President-elect Donald Trump baselessly claimed that he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Even the author of the study upon which the claim is based doesn't buy that.

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President-elect Donald Trump baselessly claimed that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Even the author of the study upon which the claim is based doesn’t buy that.

Trump also claimed there was “[s]erious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California,” three states he lost. Here again, there is no evidence to support his claim.

Trump won the election with a convincing victory in the Electoral College, even as CNN vote tallies so far have Hillary Clinton leading the popular vote by more than 2 million votes.

In a tweet sent on Nov. 27, Trump claimed he actually won the popular vote, too, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

We reached out to the Trump transition team for backup, and a spokesman pointed us toward two sources that Trump has cited in the past (back when he made bogus statements about voter fraud before the election).

The first is a 2014 Washington Post article titled “Could non-citizens decide the November election?” It was a piece penned by Old Dominion University professors Jesse Richman and David Earnest about research the two later published in the journal Electoral Studies.

The study draws upon a national election survey in which some people self-identified as noncitizens, but indicated that they voted.

“Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010,” Richman and Earnest wrote in the Post.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump transition team told us, “The Richman study applied an extremely high burden of proof and is thus extremely conservative — if you apply more reasonable assumptions, plus growth in the non-citizen population under Obama, and a lax enforcement atmosphere, the only question is just how many millions of illegal votes were cast.”

Trump cited this study in October when he warned of a “rigged” election. But, as we wrote at the time, Richman and Earnest relied on data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, and the managers of that database published a paper that disputed the finding in the Old Dominion study.

“Their finding is entirely due to measurement error,” one of the authors, Stephen Ansolabehere of Harvard and the principal investigator of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, told us. “Measurement errors happen. People accidentally check the wrong box in surveys. The rate of such errors in the CCES is very small, but such errors do happen. And when they do happen on a question such as citizenship, researchers can easily draw the wrong inference about voting behaviors. Richman and Earnest extrapolate from a handful of wrongfully classified cases (of non-citizens).”

Even if we assume the Richman and Earnest study is correct, Richman told us that it does not back Trump’s claim that noncitizen voting swung the popular vote in favor of Clinton.

Richman told us via email that he ran some extrapolations from his paper to determine the number of noncitizen voters for Clinton and Trump. He assumed that 6.5 percent of noncitizens voted and 80 percent of them voted for Clinton and 20 percent for Trump.

“If the assumptions stated above concerning non-citizen turnout are correct, could non-citizen turnout account for Clinton’s popular vote margin? There is no way it could have,” Richman said, adding that “6.5 percent turnout among the roughly 20.3 million non-citizen adults in the U.S. would add only 790,688.5 votes to Clinton’s popular vote margin. This is little more than a third of the total margin.

“Is it plausible that non-citizen votes added to Clinton’s margin. Yes,” Richman said. “Is it plausible that non-citizen votes account for the entire nation-wide popular vote margin held by Clinton?  Not at all.”

It isn’t even possible if you assume more than 80 percent of the noncitizen vote went for Clinton, he said.

“If the percentage of non-citizens voting for Clinton is held constant, roughly 18.5 percent of non-citizens would have had to vote for their votes to have made up the entire Clinton popular vote margin. I don’t think that this rate is at all plausible,” Richman told us. “Even if we assume that 90 percent voted for Clinton and only 10 percent for Trump, a more than fourteen percent turnout would be necessary to account for Clinton’s popular vote margin. This is much higher than the estimates we offered. Again, it seems too high to be plausible.”

So again, Trump’s claim is based on a disputed survey. But even if one accepts the results, the author says it is implausible to conclude based on their research that illegal noncitizen voting could have turned the popular vote in Clinton’s favor.

The transition team also points to a Pew Charitable Trust report, “Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs and Upgrade.” The report found that “[a]pproximately 24 million — one of every eight — voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.” It also found that “more than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters” and that “approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.”

The report’s authors said it shows that voter rolls are “susceptible to fraud,” though they did not say that it was evidence of actual fraud. Rather, they said that it is evidence of the need to upgrade voter registration systems.

Voting experts told us cases of “dead people” voting, or people voting in multiple states is rare. In cases where states have compared their voter lists to the Social Security Death Index and found hundreds or even thousands of apparent instances of “dead people” voting, almost all of them turned out to be due to clerical errors or as a result of people who legally voted via absentee ballots or the early voting process but then died before Election Day.

Voter Fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California?

Hours after making his claim about illegal voters swinging the popular vote, Trump also tweeted a warning about “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California” and chastised the media for ignoring it.

According to unofficial tallies compiled by Real Clear Politics, Trump lost California to Clinton by a wide margin,  about 61.6 percent to 32.8 percent. He lost Virginia by a narrower, but still convincing margin, 49.8 to 45.0. Clinton won New Hampshire by just a few thousand votes, with a margin of 47.6 to 47.2.

Trump did not provide any specifics to back up his claim about voter fraud in those states, nor did his press office — other than to refer to the studies cited above.

We couldn’t find any evidence of widespread voter fraud in any of those states, and officials in all three states contradicted Trump’s claim.

The Virginia Department of Elections provided us with a statement from Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortés, a Democrat: “The claims of voter fraud in Virginia during the November 8 election are unfounded. Virginia’s election was well administered by our 133 professional local registrars, with help from hundreds of election officials and volunteers who worked to guarantee a good experience for eligible Virginia voters. The election was fair and all votes cast by eligible voters were accurately counted.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, similarly dismissed Trump’s claim with a tweet that stated, “It appears that Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him. His unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in California and elsewhere are absurd. His reckless tweets are inappropriate and unbecoming of a President-elect.”

A spokesman for outgoing New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who narrowly won a race to unseat Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, called Trump’s claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire “completely unsubstantiated.”

The Boston Globe also noted that Republican Thomas D. Rath, the former New Hampshire attorney general who did not support Trump in the primary, tweeted, “This will probably cost me my spot in the Cabinet but there was no fraud, serious or other, in this election in NH. There just wasn’t.”

We’ll update this post if new information comes to light, or if Trump provides further backup.

 

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Obama Didn’t ‘Praise’ Castro http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/obama-didnt-praise-castro/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/obama-didnt-praise-castro/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 21:27:17 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117373 Sen. Ted Cruz went too far when he claimed that President Barack Obama praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Obama offered neither praise nor criticism in his official statement on Castro's death.

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Sen. Ted Cruz went too far when he claimed that President Barack Obama praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Obama offered neither praise nor criticism in his official statement on Castro’s death.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Cruz, a Cuban-American, spoke about the Cuban revolutionary leader who died Nov. 25 at the age of 90. The Republican senator from Texas urged Obama not to attend Castro’s funeral or send anyone to represent the United States.

Cruz, Nov. 27: I very much hope that we don’t see any U.S. government officials going to Fidel Castro’s funeral. I hope we don’t see Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and Democrats lining up to lionize a murderous tyrant and thug.

If you wouldn’t go to Pol Pot’s funeral or Stalin’s funeral or Mao’s funeral because they were murdering Communist dictators, then you shouldn’t be doing what Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau are doing, which is celebrating Fidel Castro, a murderous communist dictator.

Cruz is right about Trudeau. The Canadian prime minister issued a statement on Castro’s death that praised the former Cuban leader and his policies. In his statement, Trudeau described Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” and praised him for making “significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”

Trudeau’s statement was widely criticized. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida, called Trudeau’s statement “shameful and embarrassing.”

In contrast, Obama’s statement was neutral in its description of Castro. The U.S. president, who two years ago began taking steps to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, stated the obvious without criticizing or praising Castro. Obama said Castro’s death fills Cubans and Cuban-Americans with “powerful emotions,” as they recall “the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.”

Here is the full statement from the president:

Obama, Nov. 26: At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

When we asked the senator’s office what Cruz meant when he said Obama is “celebrating” Castro, we were referred to an op-ed that Cruz wrote for National Review. In it, Cruz criticized world leaders for engaging in a “race … to see which world leader can most fulsomely praise Fidel Castro’s legacy,” singling out Obama and Trudeau by name. But Cruz offered no evidence of praise from Obama. In fact, Cruz criticized Obama not for what he said, but what he did not say.

“Mr. Obama offered his ‘condolences’ to the Cuban people, and blandly suggested that ‘history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure,” Cruz wrote. “Now, he added, we can ‘look to the future.’ With all due respect to Mr. Obama, the 60 years Fidel Castro spent systematically exploiting and oppressing the people of Cuba provide more than enough history to pass judgment on both Fidel and, now more importantly, his brother Raul.”

It is certainly fair game for Cruz to criticize Obama for ignoring Castro’s history of repression and human rights abuses in Cuba. But Cruz goes too far when he claims that Obama is praising and “celebrating” Castro.

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Nov. 26: Global Warming, Medicare, Electoral College http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/nov-26-global-warming-medicare-electoral-college/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/nov-26-global-warming-medicare-electoral-college/#comments Sat, 26 Nov 2016 16:32:05 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117598 The post Nov. 26: Global Warming, Medicare, Electoral College appeared first on FactCheck.org.

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Trump on Climate Change http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/trump-on-climate-change/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/trump-on-climate-change/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2016 22:33:01 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=117325 President-elect Donald Trump told the New York Times he had an "open mind" about climate change, but he went on to repeat some of the same false and misleading claims that have been used by those who reject mainstream climate science.

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In a Nov. 22 interview at the New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump said he had an “open mind” about climate change, but he went on to repeat some of the same false and misleading claims that have been used by those who reject mainstream climate science.

Trump met with a group of Times reporters, editors and opinion writers for an on-the-record discussion. He made several points about climate change:

  • Trump said “the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98.” Cherry-picking one day, or one year, isn’t evidence of a trend. In fact, the long-term trend for average global temperatures shows an increase over the past several decades.
  • He said that climate change is a “very complex subject,” adding, “I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know.” Surveys have found that the level of consensus that human activity is primarily responsible for global warming is as high as 97 percent among climate scientists.
  • Trump said there is “some connectivity” between climate change and human activity, but it “depends on how much.” The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it is “extremely likely” that human activity is the cause of over half of the observed temperature increase since 1950.
  • The president-elect revived the now discredited claim that leaked emails — “horrible emails,” he called them — proved that climate scientists manipulated temperature data. But several independent investigations of the so-called “Climategate” found no such wrongdoing.

Trump also said wind farms “don’t …. work at all without subsidy.” But, as we have written, wind energy globally and in the United States is now competitive with fossil fuel energy even without federal subsidies.

Climate Change

Here’s the bulk of the climate change exchange in Trump’s interview with the Times, edited slightly for length:

Thomas L. Friedman, opinion columnist: Mr. President-elect, can I ask a question? One of the issues that you actually were very careful not to speak about during the campaign, and haven’t spoken about yet, is one very near and dear to my heart, the whole issue of climate change, the Paris agreement, how you’ll approach it. You own some of the most beautiful links golf courses in the world …

[laughter, cross talk]

Trump: [laughing] I read your article. Some will be even better because actually like Doral is a little bit off … so it’ll be perfect. [inaudible] He doesn’t say that. He just says that the ones that are near the water will be gone, but Doral will be in great shape.

[laughter]

Friedman: But it’s really important to me, and I think to a lot of our readers, to know where you’re going to go with this. I don’t think anyone objects to, you know, doing all forms of energy. But are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change?

Trump: I’m looking at it very closely, Tom. I’ll tell you what. I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. You don’t tend to hear this, but there are people on the other side of that issue who are, think, don’t even …

But a lot of smart people disagree with you. I have a very open mind. And I’m going to study a lot of the things that happened on it and we’re going to look at it very carefully. But I have an open mind.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher: Well, since we’re living on an island, sir, I want to thank you for having an open mind. We saw what these storms are now doing, right? We’ve seen it personally. Straight up. …

Trump: I do have an open mind. And we’ve had storms always, Arthur.

Sulzberger: Not like this.

Trump: You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.

My uncle was for 35 years a professor at M.I.T. He was a great engineer, scientist. He was a great guy. And he was … a long time ago, he had feelings — this was a long time ago — he had feelings on this subject. It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know. I know we have, they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind. I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important. …

James Bennet, editorial page editor: When you say an open mind, you mean you’re just not sure whether human activity causes climate change? Do you think human activity is or isn’t connected?

Trump: I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.

And here’s where Trump strayed from the science:

On hot temperatures. Trump said “the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98,” adding, “you know, you can make lots of cases for different views.” But one day — or even one year — doesn’t constitute a trend. Here’s the long-term global surface temperature trend from 1880 to 2015, from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies:

GlobalTemp

The graphic depicts global surface temperatures relative to average temperatures for 1951-1980 — a departure from the average is known as the temperature anomaly. Gray circles show the annual average, while the black line represents five-year averages. The clear trend is a rise in global average temperatures.

NASA says: “The 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2015 ranks as the warmest on record.”

SciCHECKinsertAs we’ve explained before, picking the warmest year involves a margin of error, so there’s a chance that another year could be the warmest. But NASA said there was 94 percent certainty that 2015 was the new record, surpassing its previous estimate for the warmest year of 2014.

We’ve seen other politicians cherry-pick the year 1998 to claim there hasn’t been hardly any warming since. But that year was unusually warm partly due to a very strong El Niño event. That year, the global average was .63 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 average, according to NASA, and 2015’s global average was .87 degrees Celsius above. Besides, climate scientists look at longer term trends, rather than variability compared with one year.

As for the “hottest day ever,” in 2012, the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization awarded that distinction to Death Valley, California, on July 10, 1913. It topped 134 degrees Fahrenheit, or 56.7 degrees Celsius, that day. The WMO determined that a previous record, of 136.4 degrees, recorded at El Azizia, Libya, on Sept. 13, 1922, wasn’t valid.

But this summer, in July, Kuwait recorded temperatures of 54 degrees Celsius, and the validity of the Death Valley measurement from 1913 also has been questioned by weather experts. The Guardian newspaper reported this summer that Kuwait’s high heat was “a record for the eastern hemisphere and possibly the entire planet.”

On climate change consensus. Trump said that climate change is a “very complex subject,” adding, “I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know” — casting doubt on the scientific consensus that climate change is real. But, as we’ve explained before, surveys of thousands of climate researchers have found that the level of consensus that human activity is primarily responsible for the warming climate is as high as 97 percent.

2013 paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters analyzed 4,014 papers that expressed a position on anthropogenic — human-caused — global warming. Of those papers, 97.1 percent endorsed the idea that humans are causing global warming. In addition to that finding, a second analysis in that same 2013 study asked 8,547 authors if they think their papers endorsed the consensus on warming. A total of 1,189 scientists responded, rating 2,142 individual papers. The results: 97.2 percent of the papers endorsed the consensus that humans are causing global warming.

Those results were consistent with the findings of earlier surveys published in the American Geophysical Union’s Eos magazine in 2009 and in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.

On human contribution to climate change. Trump later said that there is “some connectivity” between climate change and human activity, but it “depends on how much.” As we have written, the United Nations climate change research organization says that it is “extremely likely” that human activity is the cause of over half of the observed temperature increase since 1950.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report in 2013 said: “It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in GMST [global mean surface temperature] from 1951 to 2010. This assessment is supported by robust evidence from multiple studies using different methods.”

“Extremely likely,” according to the IPCC report, means that the likelihood of an outcome is between 95 percent and 100 percent certain.

The IPCC added that “the best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” That is, its best guess is that humans have caused essentially all of the warming that has occurred in that time.

On “Climategate” emails. Trump referenced the “horrible emails” from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that were stolen and made public during the so-called “Climategate” controversy, beginning in 2009. As we have written several times, those emails were investigated and no wrongdoing was found.

Climate skeptics claimed that the leaked emails between many climate scientists around the world showed there was a coordinated effort to inflate the global warming signal in temperature data. But several independent investigations, including by the U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General and the Environmental Protection Agency, found no such wrongdoing or manipulation.

An international panel set up by the University of East Anglia concluded: “We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention.” In 2011, the National Science Foundation inspector general also found no evidence of research misconduct.

Although critics of mainstream climate science have continued their attacks on researchers, the science has become even more solid. The IPCC’s fourth assessment report in 2007 said it was “very likely” (greater than 90 percent probability) that greenhouse gases had caused most of the warming. That assessment was upgraded to “extremely likely” in the report released in 2013.

Wind Energy

Trump also said “the wind is a very deceiving thing,” and went on to list some misperceptions about the cost of wind energy and its impact on birds.

Trump: I mean, for the most part [wind farms] don’t work. I don’t think they work at all without subsidy, and that bothers me, and they kill all the birds. You go to a windmill, you know in California they have the, what is it? The golden eagle? And they’re like, if you shoot a golden eagle, they go to jail for five years and yet they kill them by, they actually have to get permits that they’re only allowed to kill 30 or something in one year. The windmills are devastating to the bird population, O.K. With that being said, there’s a place for them. But they do need subsidy. So, if I talk negatively. I’ve been saying the same thing for years about you know, the wind industry. I wouldn’t want to subsidize it.

It is true that wind energy receives federal tax credits for production and investment and, as a result, the industry has grown substantially in recent years. In 2015, wind supplied more than 10 percent of electricity generation in 11 states, including nearly a third of the electricity in Iowa, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Wind now provides about 5.6 percent of the electricity in the U.S., more than double its share in 2010, EIA said.

The increase of wind power in the U.S. is the result of a combination of technological changes, such as improved wind technology and increased access to transmission capacity, and policy changes, such as federal tax credits and state standards that require utilities to sell a certain amount of renewable electricity, EIA said.

But, as we have written, wind energy is competitive with fossil fuel energy even without federal subsidies.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this month provided us with the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) without government subsidies for natural gas, coal and wind for the second half of this year. The LCOE represents the per megawatt hour (MWh) cost of building and operating a generating plant over the life-cycle of the project. Natural gas is less expensive ($52 per megawatt hour) on average in the U.S. than onshore wind ($56 per MWh), but coal is more expensive than both at $65 per MWh.

Similarly, the EIA projects that the average rate for new combined cycle natural gas-fired plants entering service in 2018 will be around $48 per MWh in the U.S. The unsubsidized rate for onshore wind farms for 2018 will be $51.9 per MWh. With subsidies, the rate for onshore wind drops to $34 per MWh. (See Appendix A of the EIA’s 2016 annual energy report.)

A year ago, Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that electricity from wind was cheaper than coal and natural gas in both the United Kingdom and Germany. The levelized cost of wind globally has dropped 50 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to Bloomberg.

As for the impact of wind farms on birds, we wrote that reliable data are scarce, but current mean estimates range from 20,000 to 573,000 bird deaths per year. Research also suggests oil production kills the same, if not more, birds per year than wind farms. And Trump is wrong about the penalty for shooting an eagle. The maximum civil penalty is one-year imprisonment or two for repeat offenders, not five years, and we found first-time violators are likely to serve little or no time in jail.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

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